Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3 Provides A Rare Proper Ending Within The MCU

This post contains spoilers for "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3."

"Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" brings the story of Peter, Gamora, Drax, Nebula, Groot, Rocket, and Mantis to a close, and it is fantastic. James Gunn makes his return to Marvel for one last ride, and makes the most of it with a movie full of big laughs (Adam Warlock is absolutely hilarious) and an even bigger heart. 

This is a movie not for the faint of heart when it comes to its disturbing portrayal of animal abuse, but it's also one that gives us adorably heartbreaking moments straight out of Grant Morrison's graphic novel "We3." Also, this movie finally recognizes Rocket Raccoon as the heart and soul of the franchise.

The film has the Guardians on a quest to save Rocket, who was badly hurt and is on the verge of death, while also being on the run from Adam Warlock, a creature working for the High Evolutionary. Meanwhile, we see flashbacks showing Rocket Raccoon's backstory as part of cruel experiments.

The "Guardians of the Galaxy" movies are arguably the best sub-franchise Marvel has to offer. They offer a bit of set up to other parts of the Marvel Cinematic Universe without ever losing sight of the characters' stories. This sequel is no exception, and with "Volume 3," the trilogy cements itself as the best in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and a rather rare trilogy for the studio in that it has an actual ending.

The dog days are over

This is not to say that we've never had endings in Marvel movies, because yes, "Endgame" has the word "end" in its title and served as an end to the whole Infinity Saga. But other than Iron Man and Captain America, the Avengers themselves kind of got no conclusion. Half the team died, and the others didn't get a sense of finality. Cap came back as an old man, Thor left with the Guardians, and Hulk messed up his arm but otherwise stayed silent. Did the team actually disband, or did they simply stop hanging out? We don't know because after the battle was over, we only really saw a brief, mostly silent scene at Tony's funeral.

As for other Marvel trilogies, none had a proper standalone finale concluding their stories. Captain America's third film was essentially "Avengers 2.5," and even then, it was just another movie in the franchise, not really a conclusion to his story. Thor's arc is still going, having moved beyond the trilogy format. "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania" was a mess, and you could argue that the end of the Marvel Studios/Sony "Spider-Man" trilogy was really only an ending to the first act of Peter Parker's journey and the beginning of Spider-Man as we know him.

"Iron Man 3" came closest, since that was a perfect conclusion to Iron Man's arc to that point, ending with Tony destroying his suits, throwing away his chest arc reactor, and scaling back on being a superhero to spend time with his loved ones. Of course, "Age of Ultron" undermined all that and called him back into action. 

In a way, "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" may end up being a more definitive version of what "Iron Man 3" did, since it's a movie with a lot of heart that (potentially) ends the arcs of its characters.

A true goodbye

Despite a somewhat convoluted narrative, "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" does have a great ending, with the story not really having big MCU repercussions, but instead being more intimate and connected to Rocket personally. Once the High Evolutionary is out of the picture and all the experiments are rescued, the team finally reunites and then they just ... split up.

While it may result in some waterworks from audience members, this decision makes sense. For Peter, it's been clear throughout the trilogy that he's been running away from the planet he was kidnapped from, while Drax has spent years trying to get revenge for the family he lost, Nebula has been aching for a family, and Rocket always wanted a group of friends to go on adventures with. So it makes sense that they all go their own ways, off on their individual journeys. Is it an end to every character? No. Most of them probably have things to do — Rocket and Groot may eventually come back, as apparently will Quill — but for this iteration of the Guardians, the story is over. There is no reason to have more, and that rules.

The MCU is not going away anytime soon, and the longer it goes along, the harder it gets to imagine an ending to the story. But that's exactly why "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" is so special: It knows when and how to say goodbye.